More than Just a Game: A Guide to Using Randomized Group Contingencies in Schools

Veronica R. DiStasi, Meghan A. Deshais, Jason C. Vladescu, Ruth M. DeBar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Group contingencies are evidence-based behavioral interventions frequently employed in educational settings. Group contingencies are composed of four distinct parameters: (1) a criterion, (2) a reward, (3) target students, and (4) target behaviors. Although it is common practice for teachers to reveal these parameters to students before the intervention begins (i.e. a traditional group contingency), doing so may threaten intervention effectiveness, acceptability and feasibility. One approach that has emerged in the literature to protect against these threats is randomizing group contingencies. In randomized group contingencies, some or all parameters of the group contingency are undisclosed to students to safeguard against the aforementioned threats. Given the need for maximally effective, empirically supported behavioral interventions in schools, a practical guide to using randomized group contingencies in classrooms could be useful to educators. Thus, the goal of this paper is threefold: (a) to identify drawbacks of traditional group contingencies that threaten to adversely impact their effectiveness and acceptability in schools, (b) to describe how randomized group contingencies can protect against those threats, and (c) to outline practical advantages of using randomized group contingencies in schools.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)328-349
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Applied School Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2023
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


  • Behavioral intervention
  • group contingency
  • randomized
  • school
  • traditional

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